Stationary Bike Vs. Elliptical: Which Will Help You Get To Your Goals?

Starting your fitness journey? Great news! You’re taking the very first step to looking and feeling better than ever before. One question you may be asking yourself is which piece of equipment should you use.

The constant war in your mind might be the stationary bike vs. the elliptical. You don’t like running, so it’s out. Now these two choices are duking it out in your mind.

Both options are great choices. The bike burns calories, is low impact, and is great for building lower body strength. The elliptical is also low impact, provides a full body workout, and is fun to use. You really can’t go wrong with either.

This just means it comes down to your own unique personal preferences.

Let’s clearly outline the differences so you can make an informed decision.

Stationary Bike Vs. Elliptical – Compared

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both the bike and the elliptical trainer.

Stationary Bike


  • No impact
  • Strengthens the quads, glutes and hamstrings
  • Burns a moderate amount of calories to help you reach your fat loss goals
  • Comes in two variations: the upright and the recumbent bike
  • Has variable programming including speed and resistance


  • Has the potential for knee pain, back pain, or shoulder/neck pain
  • Doesn’t work the upper body at all
  • Will require a good amount of starting quad strength to workout at a good intensity level

Elliptical Machine


  • Burns a significant amount of calories since the upper body is also being utilized
  • Gives both upper and lower body strengthening benefits
  • Is fun to use
  • Offers both speed and resistance based adjustments
  • Can be done on a lower incline or a higher incline
  • Can be done going forward or backward depending on which muscle groups you primarily want to use
  • Is non impact


  • Does have a bit of a learning curve as you get used to the range of motion
  • May result in back, shoulder or hip pain if not performed properly.

Injury Risk

One of the most important considerations when selecting cardio equipment is what the injury risk will be. When looking at these machines, both are quite similar. They don’t provide any impact, and when done properly, should leave you injury free most of the time.

This said, the bike does put your knees at a greater risk of injury due to the repetitive movement pattern they have you going through while the elliptical may put you at risk for back injury if you aren’t using the right positioning during the movement itself. Injuries on the elliptical are very rare, but the bike is slightly more common.

For this reason, the elliptical comes out slightly ahead in this department.

Fat Burning Capabilities

Another vital consideration in the question of the stationary bike vs. the elliptical is how well each burns fat. For many people, burning fat is the primary goal, so they want to do whatever exercise will best assist with that.

If this is the case, go with the elliptical trainer. Because the elliptical works both the upper and lower body, it simply wins out in this regard. More muscle fibers are being utilized, therefore more total energy is being expended.

Total Workout

If you are looking to do just a single activity for your workout sessions, you need to choose the method of exercise that gives you the most well-rounded results. Here again, the elliptical takes the cake.

It allows you to use resistance and works all the key muscles in the body: the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, chest, back, and arms. Even the core will work to keep yourself in the upright position and stabilized.

Contrast this to the stationary bike, which works the hamstrings, quads, and calves. It’s easy to see why the elliptical is the winner.

Ease Of Use

Next, consider the ease of use. Which machine is easier to use for someone just starting? If you’re a beginner, it’s vital you feel comfortable on the equipment or you will just drop off the program after a few short days in.

In this comparison of the stationary bike vs. the elliptical, the bike wins the crown. Most people learned to ride a bike when they were very little, so it’s a natural movement that comes easily. The elliptical on the other hand, you might find you struggle with a bit at first.

So if you are brand new and feel intimated, you may want to start with the bike.


Finally, since you’ll be using these at home, you might also want to consider the maintenance requirements of each piece of equipment. How often will they likely need servicing? How probable is it that they break down?

If you constantly have to call a repair technician, this adds a great deal of cost to that machine, not to mention time and frustration on your part.

While a well-built machine is unlikely to need servicing all that often in the first place, in the comparison between the stationary bike vs. the elliptical, the stationary bike is less complex. There tend to be fewer things that can go wrong with this machine, so if this is a big concern for you, it may sway you in this direction.

Conclusion: Stationary Bike Versus The Elliptical

So what’s our conclusion? If you are looking to determine which piece of equipment to use, we lean slightly towards the elliptical for all the reasons stated above. You’ll burn more calories, get a more well-rounded workout, and you’ll also get more variety, so likely have more fun as well.

This said, if you’re a beginner who is just getting started, the bike may be more up your ally. Evaluate your current situation and what your goals, needs, and desires are and make an informed decision from there.

What’s really going to matter most at the end of the day is which piece of equipment you’ll do regularly because if you are constantly skipping workouts, it doesn’t matter how great that exercise machine is, you are not going to be seeing optimal results.

We want to her from you! What’s your favorite piece of equipment? If you had to choose between the stationary bike vs. the elliptical, which equipment would you use and why?

Photo credit: nd3000/Shutterstock; misfire_studio/Shutterstock; konggraphic/Shutterstock

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